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'Paranormal Activity' producer creates haunted house inside historic DTLA theater

By Hayley Fox
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012, at 04:42PM
Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Jason Blum, producer of ‘Paranormal Activity,’ sits in one of the rooms of the Blumhouse of Horrors.



A horror movie producer best known for making thrillers including “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious” has taken his scare tactics from the screen to the stage – in a new haunted house set up inside a DTLA theater.

“We make all things scary," said Jason Blum. "TV shows, movies, and now this is our first live event; the Blumhouse of Horrors.”

This frightfest occupies part of the seven-story Variety Arts Theatre on Figueroa and employs more than 100 actors and behind-the-scenes crew members, working together to create a haunted house with a plotline.

"The story that you're told in the Blumhouse of Horrors is very connected to the building and we came up with the story after we found the location," said Blum.

The spooky tale is based on the legend of a magician who used to perform at the theater – until one of his tricks went terribly wrong and caused a woman to disappear forever.

"We're trying to see an actual ghost," said Blum, "We haven't seen one yet, but we have hope."

As people arrive at the haunted house they are put into groups of 10 or 15, and then led up stairs, through alleyways, down elevators and finally, up on stage, all the while watching small vignettes that loosely tie together to form a narrative.

"You're told a story -- but the story has lots of scares," said Blum.

Bloody-mouthed wolves leap out from behind couches, people who appear to be corpses suddenly come to life and many, many things go bump in the night. Blum’s haunted house is a roving play of fright – ranging from moments of light-hearted spookiness to all-consuming creepiness.

Each scene is thoroughly decorated down to the last candle and detail, and each actor is cloaked in an intricate costume that often consists mostly of paint and blood. There’s moments – like when an elevator suddenly drops – that you can predict, but they still manage to scare when they actually happen.

Most of the 50 actors are new, said Blum, but the hair/makeup artists, electricians and other crew members are the same people who work on his films. In fact, Blum said there are more similarities than differences when it comes to scaring people in movies and in the haunted house.

"We thought, we scare so many people on screen, both big and small, that we though we could that at a live event."

Except for that in real life there are no do-overs, so the Blumhouse crew has been doing a lot more rehearsing then they typically do for a film. In addition to practicing, there's a crucial element of timing that needs to be mastered -- getting people from scene to scene at the right pace in time for the scare.

“We were definitely not ready when we opened,” said Blum, but by halfway through the second or third night, everyone had found their groove.

Some of the scariest parts of the haunted house tour occurred in stretches of silence – a walk down an empty, rainy alley or a room that’s eerily silent.

“The most important thing for a horror movie is that it's scary, and I personally believe that things are much scarier left to your imagination than shown on the screen,“ said Blum.

His favorite scary movies are both Hitchcock thrillers -- "The Birds" and "Rope" -- so his idea of horror fits in perfectly.

"I like scary movies whether they're bloody or not," he said. "Ours tend not to be because the most important thing for a horror movies is that it's scary, and I personally believe that things are much scarier left to your imagination than shown on screen."

This is Blum's first haunted house. He said he has loved Halloween since he was a kid, and always loves the challenge of doing something new, so building a haunted house just made sense.

"Mostly, I just really like scaring people in all different ways and this would be a fun new way to do it for me."

Blumhouse of Horrors has used a lot of the production company's time and resources, so the producer isn't sure if there will be a repeat performance. Blum wouldn't say exactly how much everything cost but, "it's much more expensive than the first 'Paranormal Activity' movie but not quite as much as the first 'Insidious' movie."

Blum's had his fair share of ghastly moments in real-life as well.

"I saw one real ghost once…" he said. "I lived in a basement in my apartment in New York. A ghost appeared at the end of my bed and it was a very profound, very scary experience. He didn't say anything, he didn't do anything, he was just kind of standing there."

So does the horror director really believe in ghosts?

“I believe science doesn’t explain everything.”

The Blumhouse of Horrors is open Thursday through Saturday until Halloween week, when it will be open every day. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $35 and online for $32. This week the show is launching daytime tours called "lights-on tours" which offer discounted admission and cater to families.

Hear the radio story below:

Blumhouse of Horrors by hfox-1

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